Parliament is expected to approve a request for an additional Shs138.1 billion in “emergency” spending for State House even as some lawmakers and civil society activists yesterday accused President Museveni of being “insensible” to the needs of the people.
The Supplementary Schedule No.1 presented by junior Finance minister Matia Kasaija in Parliament on Tuesday amidst protests from opposition lawmakers shows that State House is requesting for an extra Shs128.5 billion under recurrent expenditure and Shs9.6 billion for development spending.
Latest figures from the Ministry of Finance indicate that the State House budget has jumped from Shs66.1 billion approved in September last year to Shs204.4 billion. While it is not yet clear whether the government has already spent the money, the request for more money is subject to Parliamentary approval under Section 12 of the Budget Act.
Some of the unforeseen expenditures include payments for special meals and drinks, welfare and entertainment, donations, water and electricity, newspapers, photocopying and printing, allowances, President’s travels in-land and abroad among others.
Attempts by Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi to block the supplementary request failed after Speaker Rebecca Kadaga ordered the Budget Committee to study the request and report back to the House where the ruling party enjoys an unassailable majority.
Mr Mafabi had wanted to know where the supplementary funds would be coming from and whether Ministry of Finance will not cut budget allocations for other vulnerable sectors like health, education and roads to finance State House activities.
President’s Spokesperson Tamale Mirundi said: “The President’s activities cannot be restricted. We have a working President and he visits all parts of Uganda. Where is the wastage in the State House Budget? The money is always accounted for and this explains why the MPs approve every year. The donations are not for Europeans, they are for Ugandans.”
In the Supplementary Budget, the government is seeking a total of Shs555.78 billion in additional money to finance emergency activities. The new request for additional funds will increase the 2012/13 budget from Shs11.4 trillion to Shs11.9 trillion.
While government has already paid back the stolen funds to the donors, details on the supplementary shows that part of the money, about Shs45.5 billion, has been provisioned by the Treasury to offset foreign aid which went missing in the Office of the Prime Minister. Ministry of Justice is also requesting for more than Shs500 million to cater for the legal proceedings against President Museveni in a London court.
Years ago, a London-based Ugandan journalist, Dr Jesse Mashate, sued the President in his personal capacity as Mr Museveni, claiming that he had breached a gentleman’s agreement “evidenced in writing” to compensate him for his newspaper, The Weekend Digest, which the government closed down in 1986.
Responding to MPs’ concerns, Secretary to the Treasury Chris Kassami had admitted before the Finance Committee in February last year that supplementary requests were an “inconvenience” and a “disruption” to the national Budget implementation process.
Mr Kassami told the committee that the government was in the process of amending the Budget Act, 2001 to provide for a 3 per cent allocation for a Contingency Fund to take care of unexpected supplementary requests. Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka reiterated the promise but it remains to be seen whether supplementary budgets can be controlled.
In the Supplementary Budget, the Office of the President is also asking for an additional Shs6 billion for unforeseen expenditures, swelling the budget for that department to Shs98.8 billion.
State House’s requests amid accusations of financial indiscipline fly in the face of Section 12(1) of the Budget Act 2001 which allows Ministry of Finance to spend only 3 per cent of the total the budget as supplementary expenditure for which it can seek retrospective authority from Parliament.
In the draft Public Finance Bill, 2012, the government wants to increase the threshold to 10 per cent before going to back to Parliament for authority.